For years research has suggested children should have limits placed upon their daily screen time, and now a large study suggests the same may be true for older adults. A published report from the University College London in the United Kingdom indicates that older adults who spent at least 3.5 hours a day watching television experienced a greater decline in verbal memory. The study’s data was taken from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), which included 3,662 participants age 50 years and older.
Participants answered researchers’ questions in 2008-2009 and then again in 2014-2015 regarding the time they spent watching TV. Afterward they were given a series of tests that measured verbal memory and fluency. Results showed adults who watch 3.5 or more hours of TV daily had an “average decline of 8–10 percent in word- and language-related memory over the 6 years the study covered. This is compared with a lower 4–5 percent average decline in those who watched fewer hours of TV per day over the same period.” For the verbal memory tests, participants were asked to memorize and then recall lists of words within a given time. The verbal fluency tests required them to list as many examples, such as animals, they could in a given amount of time. The semantic fluency of the study’s participants did not seem to be affected.
It was noted that most of the studies involving the effects of TV watching have been done on children and little to no studies on older adults. One of the study’s co-authors, Dr. Daisy Fancourt, who works in the Department of Behavioral Science and Health says, "Much less attention has been paid to the effects of television viewing at the other end of the lifespan, despite it being hypothesized for over 25 years that watching excessive television could contribute to the development of dementia."
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